by Katie Julius
Earlier this year, we brought you an article about some of the most common myths about home education in California. Unfortunately, there are still many misconceptions that parents and society have about homeschooling. Here we address some more of these non-truths.
I need a homeschool “program” and/or outside classes to homeschool.
This myth usually comes back to either a parent feeling inadequate about his or her ability to teach or that children need to learn with their peers.
Before we get started, I want to clarify some of these terms/concepts because that may clear up some of the misconceptions. Usually, when I see someone looking for a homeschool “program” or classes, they’re referring to a school or drop-off program where they can take their child multiple days each week. Their job as “teacher” is merely a supporting role to the “program” or “class,” providing at-home supplemental instruction at best or supervision of homework assignments at worst.
We can say right off the bat that these programs or classes are definitely not essential. Homeschool “programs” or “learning centers” are a fairly new phenomenon in the homeschool community. Families have homeschooled for decades with no or little academic support outside of the home, and their children have fared just fine (see the research from NHERI).
We addressed the issue of parents feeling inadequate in this article, but to summarize, parents can teach their own children – yes, even in high school.
With all this said, are classes outside of the home bad? Not at all! Our family participates in several enrichment classes with our co-op (not a drop-off) once a month and my daughter takes weekly music lessons in clarinet and voice. The major difference between these and a “homeschool program” is that these activities are a supplement to our core curriculum that we complete at home (or sometimes with another family or two).
My child needs to be in same-age peer groups or have same-age friends.
This is a twist on the old “socialization” concern that is so prevalent in our society today when it comes to home education. As with the traditional socialization question, it simply isn’t a concern. Our modern education system assigns students to a class based on their age in an attempt to group learners of similar academic and developmental abilities. When you are teaching a classroom of 30 or 40 students, it’s essential to have everyone be at around the same place for efficiency’s sake. However, if you are familiar with a traditional classroom setting, you will know that this simply isn’t the case, especially in the early years. Kids learn to read as young as three or four and as late as seven or eight (and sometimes even later). You can imagine the disparities that teachers find in a first or second grade classroom.
While in certain situations, it is necessary to group children based on their age, this is really the only time in their lives they will experience this. Look around your peer group or workplace. While you might find your friends are in a similar life stage as you, their ages will likely vary greatly. I think of almost every group that I’ve been part of since I graduated from college, and there is usually a range of at least 10-15 years from the youngest to the oldest. And while there may be some playful banter about being old or young, our relationships are richer because of the varied perspectives and experiences we bring.
Providing our children with peer groups of varying ages is one of the advantages of home education. My daughter, who is nine, has had many opportunities to be mentored by and learn from role models who are older than her. Now that she is more in the “middle” age of our homeschool groups, she also has opportunities to develop leadership skills with those younger than her. My daughter knows how to carry on a conversation with people of all ages – from young toddlers to grandparents and everyone in between. Sure, her closest friends are usually around her age, but the relationships she has developed and continues to grow with kids and adults of all ages would not have been possible if she were not homeschooled.
Homeschooled kids don’t learn how to deal with adversity, real life, or are sheltered.
To say that homeschooled children do not face adversity is a farce. Homeschool families experience many of the same real-life experiences that non-homeschool families do. Whether it be financial hardships, medical challenges, a death in the family, or other challenges life throws our way, homeschool families actually have an advantage to walk alongside their children and model how to handle these types of situations. Education is more than just “reading, writing and arithmetic.” Learning appropriate coping skills in difficult circumstances is just as important as learning to read or add.
One of the most common reasons that families choose to educate their children at home is to determine when their children are exposed to certain topics and life situations. This happens under the caring and loving eyes of a parent. While homeschool families may expose their children to certain topics at an age that society deems as “late,” they are able to do so in a manner that not only educates the child, but does so in an age-appropriate manner. When these topics are presented in a homeschool setting, parents, not the government or professional educators, determine when is age-appropriate and the manner in which it is done.
Of course, there are still more myths about home education. We will address more in the future. If you have other concerns or questions, we encourage you to join our Homeschool California Facebook group that is full of veteran homeschool parents who can help and support you in your homeschool journey. We also invite you to check out our New to Homeschool Digital Content Pass with many resources for our newer homeschool families.